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Old 12-09-2012, 09:28 AM   #1
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Growing older presents some challenges in living in the new century. Cultural changes in technology, the workplace, music and the arts, and now, in the sudden communication explosion, tend to create a separation of understanding in everyday dialogue between those who live in "the everyday world", and seniors, who may live with less public exposure.
Add to this, the internet, 251 television channels, and a changing political, economic and social culture, as well as a shrinking world, and we have the makings of a polyglot that goes beyond languages and dialects.
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Coping with this transition is relatively easy from a language basis, since we have unconsciously all become linguists of a sort. We're accustomed to Latin "roots", much slang, and the overflow of different languages into our daily lives.
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My immediate concern has to do with Acronyms, and what is becoming a Babylon of unconnected letters that seems not to be recognized by those who most commonly initiate their use... Namely the press, and many popular information sources, like the internet.

For starters, here's the Free Dictionary list of acronyms... but before you go there, how about a guess as to the number of "accepted" acronyms.... keeping in mind that the New Oxford Dictionary listed a total of 171,000 singular words. So what do you think? How many acronyms?
6000?
60,000?
600,000?
6,000,000?

Acronyms and Abbreviations
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Here's where I'm running into trouble. Increasingly, information sources from almost everywhere, are presenting acronyms without specifying the antecedent term. This includes many well respected sources, including the New York Times, and Wikipedia. For those who are in a channeled interest group, as here in ER (sic) this doesn't present a problem for most, but for some of us relative newbies, seeing ACTR or SNF, or TNRT, is more than a little confusing. (I was grateful to find out that DW, didn't have to do with "divorce".) I recently read a relatively short post that contained 8 undefined, different acronyms.

As an example of the difficulty of determining the basis of an acronym, consider a most common abbreviation. "SOS" In the Acronym Free Dictionary, lists 231 different bases.

Posted here, not as a complaint or suggestion for change, or a senior "Rant" against newfangled stuff... I realize there will be no change and that this is just a personal observation.
Is it possible that we could come to a point of people talking past each other, with more misunderstanding of intent?
How much more will younger people have to learn, to cope with the future?

Bring together different languages, different dialects, different educations, throw in acronyms (including from different languages and cultures) and we'll see a mathematical construct that may even defy Google algorithms.

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Old 12-09-2012, 10:30 AM   #2
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"Kind of like" the list of idioms at your link also. Now how bout those hand signs?
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:44 AM   #3
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how about a guess as to the number of "accepted" acronyms.... keeping in mind that the New Oxford Dictionary listed a total of 171,000 singular words. So what do you think? How many acronyms?
Considering that acronyms are made up of several words, there are 171,000 squared two letter acronyms, cubed for Three Letter Acronyms (TLA's), etc. Of course most wouldn't make sense, and there would be duplicates (but there are now), but that's a starting point for the numbers.


171,000 ^ 2 = 29,241,000,000
171,000 ^ 3 = 5,000,211,000,000,000 etc

unique acronyms:

26^2 = 676
26^3 = 17,576 etc

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Old 12-09-2012, 11:57 AM   #4
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Old 12-09-2012, 11:57 AM   #5
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Is it possible that we could come to a point of people talking past each other, with more misunderstanding of intent?
How much more will younger people have to learn, to cope with the future?

Bring together different languages, different dialects, different educations, throw in acronyms (including from different languages and cultures) and we'll see a mathematical construct that may even defy Google algorithms.
23skidoo, you hepcat...

My spouse and I use military acronyms all the time with each other, and it started out as the perfect way to talk over our daughter's head. Eventually, though, our daughter realized that most humans didn't talk that way and started asking what the terms meant. Now we get e-mails or phone calls whenever she has a particularly huge epiphany over hearing a long-forgotten acronym at NROTC or during summer training, and belatedly realizing what we were talking about.
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Old 12-09-2012, 12:10 PM   #6
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Language has likely always been fluid, sometimes for fun, sometimes to exclude others, sometimes to include them. Playing with language is common in comedy, look how much was in the movie Airplane! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080339/quotes
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Old 12-09-2012, 02:33 PM   #7
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My spouse and I use military acronyms all the time with each other, and it started out as the perfect way to talk over our daughter's head.
The only military acronyms I know are: FUBAR, BOHICA and SNAFU

For those unfamiliar, here a link:

List of military slang terms - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 12-09-2012, 02:57 PM   #8
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Back in my active duty days, I used to especially love the acronyms that were made up of other acronyms (sort of nested, if you like). I doubt whether private corporations could ever compete with those fun-loving gummint bureaucrats.

One of my favorites was AIMS
A for ATC RBS (two sort of related acronyms)
I for IFF/SIF (two definitely related acronyms)
M for Mark XII (or whatever the current one was)
S, mercifully, was just good old "system."
https://www.dod-aims.com
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:06 PM   #9
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The only military acronyms I know are: FUBAR, BOHICA and SNAFU
Nuclear power training used to force us to translate the acronyms and speak their words. So what you read as "SSBPs" in your nuclear reactor core theory student guide had to be spoken aloud as "self-saturable burnable poisons". This carried over to shipboard nuclear training. You couldn't just startup the STBD SSTG-- you had to give the order to "startup the starboard ship's service turbine generator".

When you qualified as an Engineering watchstander and "came forward" to qualify as Officer of the Deck, you were allowed to use acronyms again. It was a relief to refer to the AVSDU sonar screen as an "avzadoo" instead of the "auxiliary video sonar display unit". Besides, if you called it by its actual name, the non-nuclear crew would tease you.

Because life wasn't already hard enough on a submarine, we invented the the Interior Communications Manual. It listed the acronyms and their authorized verbal pronunciations for every compartment, piece of equipment, and watchstation on the boat. The words "increase" and "decrease" were forbidden because they're difficult to tell apart on a noisy phone circuit or when you're wearing an air-fed facemask during a casualty. You had to say "raise" or "lower". You had to say "shut" because "close" sounds too much like "emergency blow". And so on. If you used the inappropriate word during a drill or an inspection, you could get a lower grade (and maybe even have to repeat the evolution).

Even today I have a very difficult time using the words "increase", "decrease", and "close". It has become easier to avoid using them altogether.

And, of course, now my daughter is suffering through the same transition. My spouse thinks we're even more nuts than usual.
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Old 12-10-2012, 06:25 AM   #10
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People who complain about micromanagement have no idea how bad it can get. I am in awe of the Navy.
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:24 PM   #11
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:07 PM   #12
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Here's a twist on this - less to do with acronyms, more to do with dialects and how language changes.

My husbands grandparents emigrated from Sicily. They spoke the Sicilian dialect of the late 1800's, early 1900's. (A dialect that is mostly forgotten now except in movies like "La Terra Trema".) The grandmother never really learned English - so the couple spoke this dialect to each other... But over time it morphed with some English words some shorthand words they created themselves, etc. It also didn't morph the way that it did among Sicilians in Sicily.

Fast forward to the 60's. A nephew of theirs comes to visit from Sicily. He speaks perfect English, text book Italian, and some Sicilian dialect. He's asked to translate for the Grandmother - he says: "I have no idea what language they're talking in - it is unique to them alone."

My point is that languages are living/changing with time. If you take a snapshot and don't allow it to change - it becomes a language of it's own.
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Old 12-10-2012, 03:10 PM   #13
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People who complain about micromanagement have no idea how bad it can get. I am in awe of the Navy.
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